Category Archives: Bremer

Bremer and De-Ba’athification

In examining the little contretemps between a Bush trying to slide out from under direct responsibility for the single worst decision in the whole Iraq mess and a Bremer determined not to play fall-guy for a president who didn’t think twice about throwing him under the bus to save his own precious neck, Fred Kaplan at Slate isn’t as forgetful about Chalabi’s early role as Blumenthal, but he does miss Chalabi’s later role and, for some reason, comes over all coy about assigning the decision to Cheney even though the evidence is right under his nose.

Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn’t him. Though he wouldn’t be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.

In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” Feith reportedly told him. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”

Bremer’s version rings true, and if it is then the orders came from Cheney. Period. Feith was L’il Dick’s boy and wouldn’t have dared make a move like that without the Veep told him to. Maybe Kaplan has some doubts about Bremer’s tale, but he doesn’t say what they are.

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The Myth of Corporate-Style Governing 5: The State v Commerce Turf War

No one who has ever worked for a corporation could fail to be aware of a certain “turf consciousness” as various departments – and individuals within those departments – compete for attention and power. There are two myths involved in turf consciousness.

1. The “team concept”

That’s the one that portrays corporate life as a sports metaphor, where every individual has a specific job to do but works seamlessly with everyone else as part of a unit with the same goal: winning the game (read: “making a lot of money”). According to the myth, “teamwork” increases efficiency and corporate harmony by honoring the value of everyone’s contribution equally, and subsuming private goals to the overall good of the team. The idea is expressed in one of two ways:

  1. The only “turf” that matters is the turf of the playing field where the game is being fought. It is common to everyone and no single individual or group controls it. Therefore, fighting over control of it is counter-productive and inefficient.
  2. The game can only be won if the team works together. Fighting over prerogatives, perks, and power serves to fragment the team effort, weakening it with jealousy, internal strife, and hurt feelings, effectively sabotaging the team’s efforts.

There are a number of corporate fads swirling around the concept of building teamwork. My sister-in-law, for example, runs corporate Team-Building Weekends on ropes-challenge courses in which junior executives learn to work together on an obstacle course consisting of rope-ladders, rope bridges, trapezes, and simulated cliffs. Most of it happens in trees, 20 feet or more above the ground. The course is designed to make it difficult or even impossible for an individual to succeed alone but a snap if the group works together. It’s a very sophisticated version of the kind of obstacle course the military uses during basic training. She makes a good deal of money running these weekends.

Then there was the “dragon boat racing” craze of a few years ago. Adapted from the Chinese, dragon boat racing requires participants to row and steer together. If they argue, they lose.

The latest of these fads was adapted, believe it or not, from acting and improvisational exercises. Two of these exercises were on view last year in tv programs, an episode of What About Brian? and a teaser for Donald Trump’s new Apprentice.

The point of all these is to build trust between the participants and break down the walls of competitive ego by forcing the subjects to co-operate with each other. Does it work?

The short answer is, of course, No.

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US Holds Itself ‘Not Responsible’

Viceroy Bremer will soon be signing an order that says US military, officials, and civilian contractors are ‘immune from prosecution’ for crimes they may have committed in Iraq while ‘acting on behalf of their parent states.’

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, U.S. officials said. The order is expected to last an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held.The United States would draw legal authority from Iraq’s Transitional Administrative Law and the recent U.N. resolution recognizing the new government and approving a multinational force, but some U.S. officials and countries in the multinational force still want greater reassurances on immunity, U.S. officials said.

Bush’s top foreign policy advisers, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, are still debating the scope of immunity to be granted. “The debate is on the extent or parameters of coverage — should it be sweeping, as it is now, or more limited,” said a senior U.S. official familiar with discussions, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.

‘Sensitivity’, that’s a good one. But of course, Bush didn’t order torture, so presumably that won’t be covered by Order 17, right? For some reason, I doubt the defense attorneys are going to see it that way…

‘Full Sovereignty’ Dies Quick Death

Well, that didn’t last long. What, three days? four?

BAGHDAD — The political standoff over who will become Iraq’s next president dragged on Monday amid accusations that the U.S. was pushing to name its preferred candidate and scuttling an endorsement by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.The council had been scheduled to meet Monday, when it was widely expected to nominate its current leader, Ghazi Ajil Yawer, for the largely ceremonial post.

L. Paul Bremer III, who heads the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, and United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi reportedly support former Iraqi Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi.

For the second time in two days, Bremer ordered the Iraqi body to postpone its vote, council members and aides said.

“The U.S. must be cooking up something behind curtains,” said Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish council member. “They are interfering with the process. They have no right to do this. It should be done by Iraqis.”

Um, yes, well. Anybody want to explain it to Mahmoud?

Bremer of Iraqis: “Let ‘Em Eat Sand”

From Suzanne Goldenburg of The Guardian (via Tom Engelhardt):

A more substantial assault on Saddam’s legacy is under way in the Republican Palace, where the occupation authority is making preparations to dismantle the food distribution system which gave free rations of flour, rice, cooking oil and other staples to every Iraqi.Described by the UN as the world’s most efficient food network, the system still keeps Iraqis from going hungry. But the US civilian administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, views it as a dangerous socialist anachronism. The coalition provisional authority (CPA) is planning to abolish it in January, despite warnings from its own technical experts that this could lead to hunger and riots. (emphasis added)

This is clinical insanity. Bremer is nuts, gonzo, round-the-bend, off his chump. What in god’s name is he doing? Trying to provoke riots? Distributing food to a starving, jobless population is “a dangerous social anachronism?” Certifiable, absolutely.

The signs that Bremer is another neocon fruitcake whose belief system is unhindered by the thought process or any contact with reality on the ground have been building for some time now, though for the most part, you could put them down to good-soldier-loyally-following-his-orders-and-backing-his-commanders behavior if you were feeling generous. OK, so he cut Iraqi businesses out of the loop in their own country so the gigs could go to loyal Publican firms at 10X the price the same job could be done by the home-grown faction; that’s Admin policy to reward big contributors, and maybe he doesn’t have a choice. OK, so he ignored the need for a cel-phone contract for months even though the Iraqi communications people had one ready to sign that would have had the system up and running in a few weeks, and then when he did get around to it, he picked the wrong format, the wrong company, and will probably pay 5X what the Iraqi contract would have cost for cel-phones that the Iraqis won’t be able to use; hey, American troops and Iraqi diplomats were being shot down in the streets of Baghdad every day, and he had more important things to worry about.

But his statements since arriving here have been largely untouched by any reference to the real problems he’s (supposedly) been facing every day. In Bremer’s world, everything in Iraq is just dandy–“Better than we could have hoped.”

Uh-huh. Our hopes must have been mighty low-down, then, considering how badly everything has been going: increasing tension, increasing attacks, increasing disenchantment, decreasing electricity production, oil production, zero jobs, demonstrations in the streets by the jobless, a restive army let loose with nothing to sustain it but anger–the list is longer than I can print.

But does he mention any of this when he comes? Does he include it in his Congressional testimony or acknowledge it on tv?

Nope. Everything is “better than we could have hoped.”

And now he wants to stop the food from getting to the people because in the not-so-brightly-lit closet-thinking of the rabid right, food programs are nothing but welfare programs, and welfare programs, as we all know, are passe: “dangerous social anacronisms” that are probably commie conspiracies to boot.

I don’t have to tell you that this is an extremely dangerous decision practically guaranteed to provoke food riots, anti-American hatred, more attacks on our troops, and possibly famine in the Iraqi population.

If anybody in this Admin was still sane, Bremer would be removed tomorrow. But they aren’t and he won’t be. The best we can hope for is that somebody who has a few brain cells that still talk to each other will put the kibosh on this foolishness before Bremer has a chance to initiate it.

But I’m trying to think of somebody like that in BushCo at this point, and I’m coming up empty. It don’t look good.

In the "No Shit, Sherlock" Dept t…

Item #1:

From the Boston Globe:

The interim Iraqi government, set up by the United States to advise its senior administrator in Baghdad, has surprised Washington recently with a series of increasingly contentious positions as it presses for self-rule, from a push for sweeping economic changes to a move toward normalizing trade relations with Syria and Iran, countries branded by US officials as exporters of terrorism.

Oops. What have we here? Insubordination? Rebellion in the ranks? The Governing Council wants to govern? How dare they….

The rapid push for self-rule, led by Achmed Chalabi, a prominent dissident during Saddam Hussein’s rule who is now the council’s president, is the latest sign that the 25-member panel is growing more independent-minded and could disrupt the work of L. Paul Bremer III, the top US civilian official in Iraq.

Comments Chalabi made before this week’s opening session of the UN General Assembly in New York followed other declarations by the council in recent weeks that challenge Bremer’s desire for gradual political development and economic change.

As mentioned previously on this blog, Achmed Chalabi, embezzler and master manipulator, the man who’s had Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz wrapped around his little finger since before the First Gulf War, has always had his own agenda. He has displayed real genius in the way he fed the Neocon Boys exactly what they wanted to hear while managing to keep his true goal–getting the Boys to install him as Iraq’s new ruler–under his hat, at least publicly.

Unfortunately, Paul Bremer wasn’t a member of the Holy Circle early on and apparently missed the memo, so when the dust of occupation settled, Chalabi, much to his chagrin, found himself not Iraq’s newest American-backed dictator but just another member of the Iraqi Governing Council. IOW, one of 2 dozen–not exactly the prominence of position he expected.

But you can’t keep a good man down. Chalabi, like all manipulators a very perceptive guy when it comes to reading the mood of the manipulatees (the Iraqi population in general and the members of the Council in particular), waited his turn for the Chair, meanwhile fomenting rebellion against the Occupiers every chance he got. Why would he turn against his old “friends”, the guys who flew him and his private army into Baghdad as soon as feasible so they could tear down Hussein’s statue while the real city-folk were hiding from the bombs and the shooting?

Because he’s pissed off, that’s why. There’s no way of knowing at this point exactly what promises had been made to Chalabi by the Neocon Boys over the years of their association, but it’s reasonable to suppose that if they didn’t expressly promise to put him on the throne, at least they led him to believe they would. And then they didn’t.

It must have been a shock for poor Achmed. All those years of playing the Boys like a violin and then at the last minute they weasel out from under him. But not to worry–our boy still had a few tricks up his sleeve.

So when it came time for Chalabi’s month as Council Prez, does he content himself like the CP’s before him with the humdrum day-to-day business of trying the get the Occupation Govt to get Halliburton to do something–anything–about the country’s infrastructural chaos, like getting their water running again or electricity for more than a few hours a day?

Nah. Our boy has much bigger fish to fry. He’s off to NY, representing the Council to the UN–just like a real ruler!–and crying about independence from the Oppressors just like he actually meant it–which, if they don’t live up to his expectations about their backing him, he probably will. In time.

What a slap in the face to the NB’s. But really, how did they think a monomaniacal manipulator would react when they pulled the Persian carpet out from underneath him? Did they really think he was just going to slink away into a dark corner with his tail between his legs and whine quietly to himself while The Prize went to someone else?

Another indication–if you needed one–that our leaders’ “depth” of forethought about their adventure lacked, um, depth. Any kind or species thereof.

What a shock.

Item #2:

This one doesn’t require much in the way of comment; it pretty much speaks for itself:

The White House office in charge of reviewing federal regulations has reported that the benefits of some major environmental rules appear to exceed the costs by several times and that the net benefits may be even larger than previously acknowledged.

In its annual review of the costs and benefits of regulations, the Office of Management and Budget examined a sampling of major rules and found that the total benefits, to the extent they can be measured, were at least triple the costs.


Nice to have it confirmed, I suppose….